1. When you put yourself (or your spouse) down, give up, or avoid difficult challenges...
...your children learn to become critical, doubtful, and pessimistic about themselves.
When I think about excuses, I think Moses. Goodness, that man was ripe with them at the beginning of his assignment.
What if they don’t listen to me?
I’m not a good speaker.
How about you send somebody else to do it for me, God?
He wanted to kick back on the recliner before he took a single step into the adventure God had planned for Him. Threw in the towel early.
With each passing year, kids begin to solidify their understanding about what they are, and aren’t, capable of in the world. They’re either systematically pigeonholed, or taught to dare greatly, as input from loved ones begin to shape their identities. Little ears tend to listen more closely than parents couldever imagine.
“Math was hard in high school, so even though I wanted to be an engineer, I settled for _________.”
“Girls/boys shouldn’t be _______.”
“It’s not worth it to try again, nothing’s going to change.”
And by those off-handed remarks, their options narrow, year by year. A child surrounded by messages of insecurity, fear, and helplessness learns to stop trying. They also lose their ability to trust God with new opportunities when the challenge seems too big or uncomfortable. And sadly, they doubt their own ability to discern His instructions and follow through.
Since no loving parent would purposely shackle a child in fear and helplessness, awareness is the first step to breaking the cycle for future generations. When the spirits of depression, helplessness, and nihilism attack, we rest in the basic truths of God’s love and promises.
Healing of that kind requires intentional prayer, and oftentimes, help from a trusted mentor or therapist. Our kids need to witness a fighting faith in those they look up to. In marriage, we have a critical opportunity to stand united in hope and grit, to uplift and embolden one another, and to pick each other up when we fall.
“Love...it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor. 13: 7
2. When you fight without ever coming to a respectful agreement...
...your kids learn to avoid, appease, or become the aggressor to get their wants and needs met.
What kind of fighter are you? We all have our usual go-to stances, based on how much cooperation and assertiveness we’re comfortable with. Adam and Eve come to mind as great examples of “runners.” Not only did they both hide after God discovered their error in the garden, but Adam also pointed fingers when he couldn’t handle the heat. (Gen. 3:6-13)
When it comes to parenting, couples who hide aren’t uncommon. Many are simply afraid to disagree in front of the kids—to hurt them or make their little ones worry about divorce. That being said, avoiding a fight until a “better time” usually results in a problem that never goes away. Blow-ups happen later down the road, or spouses wind up seething quietly in an effort to keep the peace. It’s no wonder there’s an uptick in divorcewhen the last child finally leaves the home.
Perhaps it’s better that a couple hashes out a louder-than-normal disagreement in front of the kids, rather than pretending it’s not there—with the focus being on conflict resolution and reconciliation. Whether that difference of opinion is communicated perfectly isn’t the “make or break” marriage issue. I believe that the crux of successful parenting is making sure to teach the kids that a respectful and kind outcome is possible.
The outcomes of fighting dirty, or alternatively, avoiding conflict all cost, are troubling. Children who never learn to work through conflict to a responsible end wind up developing behaviors such as:
a. avoiding or bending the truth out of fear
b. denying thoughts and feelings, or “checking out” emotionally
c. catering to the approval of others instead of God
d. using bully tactics to “win”
e. suffering resentment and a hard heart
f. missing out on leadership opportunities
g. enduring abusive or coercive behaviors instead of speaking up
h. suffering disconnection in relationships with spouses and kids
The possible consequences are troubling, but there’s always hope. In no marriage ever known to man, has there ever been two spouses in complete agreement with one another every single day. Modeling productive disagreement and coming up with solutions that honor both spouses is the gift of a lifetime. In fact, the future of our children’s’ healthy marriages depends heavily on it.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32)
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